Kudos to Jonathan Turley of The George Washington Law School for his op-ed in yesterday’s LA Times entitled “Evidence of a Supreme Court bias.”
His primary point — Sure, putting Elena Kagan onto the High Court brings more diversity to the body because there will then be three women, but what about the blatant lack of intellectual diversity that comes from having a Supreme Court in which every single member has attended either Harvard or Yale? (It should be noted that Ruth Bader Ginsburg actually graduated from Columbia after transferring from Harvard — she served on both law reviews)
Turley’s got a great take on why this is a problem:
Why should we care? When you virtually exclude all but two of the nation’s 160 law schools as sources for justices, it not only reduces the number of outstanding candidates but guarantees a certain insularity in training and influences on the court. This bias is not only elitist but decidedly anti-intellectual. Moreover, there is no objective basis for favoring these two schools. Annual rankings from law schools on publication or reputation or student scores show relatively small differences in the top 20 law schools. The actual scores of the small pool of students in the top tier vary by only a few points. While Harvard and Yale are routinely ranked in the top spots, the faculties and student bodies are not viewed as manifestly superior to such competitors as Stanford, Chicago, Michigan or other top schools.
I’ll leave you with this little sequence from Turley, and I suggest you read the entire article.
Elitism on the court is open and raw. For those not familiar with it, consider Scalia’s recent remarks to a student at American University’s Law School. He said that she should not expect to be considered for a Supreme Court clerkship given the school she attended. Scalia explained: “By and large, I’m going to be picking from the law schools that basically are the hardest to get into. They admit the best and the brightest âŚ and if they come in the best and the brightest, they’re probably going to leave the best and the brightest, OK?” Many in the audience were not happy, but at least Scalia was being honest about the raging elitism at the Supreme Court. It is, of course, ridiculous to suggest that the top student at American is not competitive with the top students from Harvard. However, this prejudice against non-elite schools is perpetuated by justices like Scalia who rarely look beyond the top five schools for clerks.